By Calvin Martin, Director of Program Advocacy and Inclusion
Our mission at Guardian ad Litem is to represent abused, abandoned and neglected children in Florida’s dependency courts – a tremendous challenge. We have more than 10,000 volunteers but always need more, as more children come into foster care and many stay longer. Ideally, we strive to have volunteers who reflect the racial and ethnic mix of our foster care population.
Nationally, children of color are over-represented in the child protection system. According to a January 2020 analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, “about 2.6 percent of American adults ages 18 to 44, or roughly 2.9 million people, had spent time in foster care. The rate was higher for African Americans — 3.8 percent of black men and 5 percent of black women.”
That’s why Guardian ad Litem created the statewide position of Director of Program Advocacy and Inclusion. And it’s why we’re proud to be collaborating with Florida A&M University’s (FAMU’s) School of Journalism and Graphic Communications for help in recruiting more people of color, males and young adults as volunteers.
Over the past few months, FAMU public relations students have been devising surveys and conducting focus groups. Multimedia students have been creating video public service announcements. We did a public radio show together. And Guardian ad Litem staff and volunteers are visiting classes to talk about and brainstorm child advocacy and recruitment in communities of color.
At one class I visited, students discussed the challenges faced by young people who come out of the foster care system. Some students said they have friends and classmates who now face food insecurity or having nowhere to go during the holidays.
This is part of our challenge. Communities vary widely in responding to a call for volunteers, and some are mistrustful. So we have to figure out a way to do specific types of engagement efforts, which is where I think this partnership comes into play.
This is an exciting time, and we are making a difference. Thank you to the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communications and to all our Guardian ad Litem staff and volunteers who have been so supportive of this initiative.
Join us! To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or to become a volunteer, visit GuardianAdLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1425.